Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review of On Guard

On Guard, by Dr. William Lane Craig, is an excellent introductory text on Christian apologetics. It is, therefore, a good resource for both Christians and those interested in Christianity alike.
The book is organized in a logical fashion, starting with the nature of apologetics (‘the defense of the Christian faith’) and the significance of the question ‘Does God exist?’
Dr. Craig than ably presents and explains, in accessible language, a number of the strongest arguments for the Christian worldview, in a two-part structure.
Part One consists of arguments for theism, the idea that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God exists. Part Two establishes the identity of God as the one revealed by the Christian tradition and Scriptures, primarily by explaining who Jesus is, how we know that Jesus was raised from the dead, and why Jesus is the only way to God.
The author, Dr. Craig, is a world renowned philosopher and apologist. He has been endorsed with the highest praise by Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, J.P. Moreland, and many other of the finest Christian evangelists, apologists, and philosophers. The reason for these accolades is that he simply has an outstanding and comprehensive understanding of the relevant philosophical andscientific and historical issues relevant to the question of God’s existence. Further, he writes and speaks in a crisp, clear, and incredibly organized manner. And finally, he lives what he teaches, with a personal integrity and dedication to Christ, the church, and the world that is worthy of respect. He provides a great deal of free resources through his ministry Reasonable Faith.
His children’s books aside, On Guard is one of Dr. Craig’s most accessible books. It is interspersed with sidebars that provide definitions, small group discussion questions, occasional cartoons (!), short biographical profiles, argument maps, and chapter outlines. Illustrations from his ministryReasonable Faith and his own life experience bring the more abstract components of the book to life. Altogether, these additional materials strengthen the book’s purpose: “This book is intended to be a sort of training manual to equip you to fulfill the command of 1 Peter 3: 15. So this is a book to be studied, not just read” (KL 345-346).
You might ask – But why be trained? Why study? Why such hard work? Unfortunately, intellectual laziness is often the default posture of the Christian church.
In response, the book provides a convincing defense of the importance of apologetics as a matter of Biblical faithfulness. Further, Craig argues that when disciples of Jesus are trained to think carefully about the reasons for the Christian hope of salvation, they will be empowered to effectively shape culture, strengthen believers, and winning unbelievers to faith in Jesus. Dr. Craig’s own experience, and for what it is worth, my own experience in ten years of campus ministry at places like Harvard and Boston College Law School, readily confirm the significance of the apologetic enterprise. If we treasure Jesus, love the Scriptures, and long to see our family and friends know the God who made them and loves them, we have simply got to put in the hard work to study apologetics. On Guard is an excellent place to start.
From a practical perspective, perhaps the most important chapter is Chapter 2 on “What Difference Does It Make If God Exists?” In this section, we gain a clear understanding of the dramatic contrast between the implications of the Christian worldview and the atheistic perspective. Dr. Craig carefully argues that there is a logical consistency between affirming God’s existence and a world of meaning, value, purpose, and significance, but a logical inconsistency on these existential necessities for the atheistic approach. Many common misunderstandings of this argument are noted and responded to in this chapter.
Imagine with me for a moment that one of your secular friends, having considered the argument of this chapter, admitted that “If we live happily as atheists, it is only by inconsistently affirming meaning, value, and purpose for our lives, despite the lack of foundation for them” (Kindle 811-812). Does that mean that Christianity is true? By no means. But does it rightly motivate a search to investigate the Christian worldview? Absolutely. Christ offers a real fulfillment of our most essential human concerns. This is a significant clue in our search for God.
The following chapters on theism present what are known as Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument, thekalam Cosmological Argument, the Design Argument, and the Moral Argument. Each one is presented in a very easy to remember format. For instance, here’s the moral argument:
  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists (Kindle 2075-2077).
With a little effort, I do believe that you can remember all twenty-three words of this argument. After all, there are only twelve unique words. This is as simple as it gets.
Here’s the genius of it: this is an entirely logical, deductive argument for the existence of God. Bothpremises are often admitted to by atheists. The conclusion follows as a matter of rational necessity. This is a valuable argument to understand and to be able to share in a conversational and friendly manner with people who are interested in what you believe. When you stand on such solid intellectual ground, there’s no need to get nervous or defensive about anything at all.
Readers of the book will benefit from the chapter on suffering for many reasons. It clearly distinguishes between many different versions of the problem. It forthrightly acknowledges the emotional intensity of the discussion. It acknowledges the weaknesses of the Christian position, but not without stating the far greater struggle atheism has in responding to suffering. The conclusion is excellent, summarizing many different strands of response into one powerful synthesis:
Paradoxically, then, even though the problem of suffering is the greatest objection to the existence of God, at the end of the day God is the only solution to the problem of suffering. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with pointless and unredeemed suffering. God is the final answer to the problem of suffering, for He redeems us from evil and takes us into the everlasting joy of an incommensurable good: fellowship with Himself (Kindle 2843-2846).
In fairness, there are a few changes I would like to see in On Guard. I offer these critiques in a friendly spirit, as Dr. Craig has been a significant intellectual influence on my life, and has spoken at events I’ve arranged on at least three occasions. Still, I do think that On Guard unnecessarily limits its audience and its reach in a few ways, and consequently, there remains room for improvement.
For instance, this training manual really needs a final chapter that explains how to initiate and discuss these challenging intellectual matters with friends. It isn’t just Christians who don’t study bubble universes and infinite mathematics! How does Dr. Craig envisage the average Christian discussing these complicated matters over dinner with their friends?
One simple solution would be to explain where to start depending on who you are talking to. For instance, the moral argument is perhaps the most accessible and the most personally relevant point of the entire book. Letting people know that the moral argument is an excellent starting point will encourage them to actually start somewhere. By contrast, if a reader of On Guard starts up a conversation on bubble universes with an actual astrophysicist, I don’t expect that this introductory training manual will be sufficient (nor is it intended to be). Much else could be said on this point.
Second, in his introduction, Craig acknowledges that there is only a “minority of a minority with whom apologetics is effective” (Kindle 311-312). But he also advocates for nearly everyone to be trained in apologetics. This is a significant tension. By indicating throughout which areas of the book are more generally accessible and which sections are more technical, On Guard could extend its reach without diluting the intellectual rigor of certain sections. It is a strength of the material that it gently takes its readers into new domains of learning. It is a weakness that it doesn’t clarify what is ‘street ready’ and what is more advanced.
Finally, On Guard is a perfectly interesting book for atheists and seekers to read. It just needs to welcome them in and address them specifically from time to time. Unlike many resources that are ‘for Christians,’ there’s nothing in On Guard that is therefore second-rate. Dr. Craig doesn’t beg the question, quote the Bible to make a hasty point, or score cheap attacks on those who disagree with him. There’s very little insider jargon. Why not be deliberate about welcoming seekers to read the book as carefully as Christians, explain the gospel to them (and to Christians), and invite them to follow Jesus? Anyone who converted to Christ after reading On Guard would be in an excellent position to start discussing the gospel with their friends. A brief chapter that noted the importance of joining a church, growing to spiritual maturity, and so on would help these new believers develop in a holistic way.
Overall, I think the book is perhaps the best introductory training manual for Christian apologetics. I wish that every high school student in every church youth group studied this material in small groups with a trained adult facilitator. Adults would benefit from this book as much as teenagers. God calls us to worship with ‘all of our minds’ (Matthew 22:37). On Guard is an excellent resource for this essential task of Christian discipleship. But I also recommend this book for those who are curious to know if a reasonable case can be provided for the Christian worldview.
You can buy a copy of On Guard at Amazon.com.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Agnostic Thomas Nagel on Why There is Anything

"The existence of our universe might be explained by scientific cosmology, but such an explanation would still have to refer to features of some larger reality that contained or gave rise to it. A scientific explanation of the Big Bang would not be an explanation of why there was something rather than nothing, because it would have to refer to something from which that event arose. This something, or anything else cited in a further scientific explanation of it, would then have to be included in the universe whose existence we are looking for an explanation of when we ask why there is anything at all.  This is a question that remains after all possible scientific questions have been answered."

1. "WHY IS THERE ANYTHING?" IN SECULAR PHILOSOPHY AND THE RELIGIOUS TEMPERAMENT (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS: 2009), P. 28.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thoughts on the Big Bang

1)      If the universe has only been in existence for a finite amount of time, then it is rational to believe that the universe began to exist. If the big bang theory is true, it provides strong evidence that our universe has only existed for a finite amount of time and, therefore, that our universe began to exist.

2)      The universe is expanding and hence becoming less dense. This means that in the past it  was much more dense.  If we extrapolate back far enough, we reach a state when the universe was extremely dense and hot and finally a state of infinite density where the theory of general relativity breaks down (a state known as a singularity). The big bang theory describes the expansion of the universe from this early hot, dense phase. According the standard account , not just energy, but space and time came into existence at the singularity.

3)      The exact nature of such a singularity is far from clear, but if the universe had a beginning such a singularity would mark the beginning of the universe (or else the time immediately after which the universe began to exist). If we consider the timeline of the universe, the singularity would simply be the time t=0.

4)      We cannot appeal to the singularity as the cause of the universe. If the big bang singularity is precisely nothing, we are left with the question of how the universe then came into existence out of nothing. Others have argued that a big bang singularity would be a real physical state; but if so it would still just exist at the time t=0. In that case we have to ask “how did the singularity come into existence out of nothing?”

5)      Some speculate that future scientific research will provide strong evidence in favour of cosmologies that avoid a beginning of the universe. For example, in the oscillating universe model the universe expands, then collapses back on itself, then expands again, and so on. However, many such models turn out to be  incompatible with an infinite number of cycles and so do not avoid the beginning. Furthermore, our current evidence indicates that our universe will not collapse back in on itself.
6)      Research by Borde, Guth and Vilenkin has shown that, under reasonable assumptions, an expanding universe will have a finite past. [i]

7)      If a proposal is intended to undermine the idea that the universe had a beginning, there must be some good reason to think that the proposal is true or likely to be true. Merely appealing to the possibility that the universe might not have had a beginning would be a very weak response to the argument being proposed here.

8)      While there is no conclusive proof that the big bang theory is true or that the universe had a beginning, the scientific evidence does strongly point in that direction. Sir Martin Rees has written:
The empirical evidence for a Big Bang ten to fifteen billion years ago is as compelling as the evidence that geologists offer on Earth’s history … A few years ago, I already had ninety per cent confidence that there was indeed a Big Bang … The case now is far stronger: dramatic advances in observations and experiments have brought the broad cosmic picture into sharpfocus during the 1990s, and I would now raise my degree of certainty to ninety-nine per cent.[ii]
9)      The scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe provides evidence for theism and against materialistic atheism. Consider the following argument:
(A) Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
(B) The universe began to exist;
(C) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
There can be very little doubt about (A) and we have a good deal of scientific evidence for (B); therefore, there is not a great deal of uncertainty about the conclusion.

10)  The cause of the universe could not be physical and would exist outside our space and time. This is certainly much more consistent with belief in God than it is with  materialistic atheism.



[i] ‘Inflationary Spacetimes are Incomplete in Past Directions’, Physical Review Letters, 90(15) (2003), 151301.
[ii] Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers (London:Phoenix, 2000), 11.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Dozen Logical Fallacies in The God Delusion


NOTE: Richard Dawkins is a famous scientist from Oxford U. and a leading atheist.  He argues that there no more evidence for belief in God than for Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.  He says that “faith-heads” who believe in God are “ignorant, stupid, or insane.”  In this book, The God Delusion (Mariner ed., 2008), he claims to prove that religion is a “vice” based upon “indoctrination.”  Belief in God, according to Dawkins, is a “delusion”: “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong, contradictory evidence” (Preface, p. 28).  However, when his arguments are examined objectively, they prove to be riddled with fallacies.  A fallacy is an argument which appears plausible on the surface, but which is found to rest upon false or invalid assumptions.  As a single illness may involve many overlapping symptoms, the logical weaknesses in this book also involve many overlapping fallacies.  Rather than prove his point Mr. Dawkins instead provides an excellent teaching tool to demonstrate logical fallacies.


A. Fallacies of Irrelevance (Distraction)
    1. Ad baculum (veiled threat):  Mr. Dawkins threatens his opponents.  He implies that scientists who disagree with him can expect to pay a penalty from other atheists like him (e.g. to be scorned and shunned).  For example, he argues that no one who agrees with Mother Teresa about the sanctity of life should “be taken seriously on any topic, let alone be thought seriously worthy of a Nobel Prize” (p. 330).  This implied threat has been exposed as a real threat by Ben Stein in the documentary: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (http://www.expelledthemovie.com).  Stein interviews numerous scientists who have lost funding and even their jobs just for questioning Darwinism.  Such threats and intimidation have no place in logical argument or legitimate science.

   2. Ad hominem (personal attack):  Personal ridicule is also out of order.  Nevertheless Dawkins shamelessly stigmatizes both individuals and organizations for their personal and religious convictions.   Several eminent scientists who have been open about their traditional Christian beliefs are ridiculed as “a subject of amused bafflement to their peers in the academic community” (p. 125).  In the same vein, Moody Bible Institute is mocked as the “rock bottom” in the “hierarchy of American universities;” Wheaton College is “a little bit higher on the scale, but still the Alma Mater of Billy Graham” (p. 121).  James Dobson is accused of “indoctrination” as the “founder of today’s infamous ‘Focus on the Family’ movement” (p. 206).  From a logical perspective, the expression of such personal biases is completely inappropriate.  Bigotry does not constitute logical argument or scientific evidence.  Behind these personal attacks and bigotry lies Dawkins’ repeated accusation that Christianity is a malignant and “corrosive force” which is fatal to the scientific enterprise (Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference: Feb., 2002; Posted: TED Archive: April, 2007).  

In an essay entitled “Viruses of the Mind” (Free Inquiry, 1993), Dawkins argued that religion is an “accident of birth” and a mental “virus.”  Religious beliefs are “mind-parasites” which breed upon “mystery.”  According to Dawkins, the religious virus is adverse to reason and evidence.  In the God Delusion Dawkins applies this theme to children.  Dawkins declares that religion is the greatest danger facing children.  “Christianity,” he asserts, “just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioning faith is a virtue.  “You don’t have to make the case for what you believe,” he says (p. 346; cf. pp. 323, 347, 379).  Apart from isolated personal attacks like those mentioned above, Dawkins presents no serious evidence or justification for that accusation.  His accusation is categorically false.  His own university was established as a Christian institution for the sake of pursuing the truth.  The motto of Oxford is Dominus illuminatio mea: “The Lord is my light.”  The Natural History Museum, where Dawkins has debated, and most of the oldest colleges and universities in the world were established by Christians.  Harvard, the oldest and most revered of American schools, bears the motto: “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” (“Truth for Christ and the Church”) on the official seal.  Students today may be surprised to learn that Harvard was originally established to train Christian ministers and that one of the founding “precepts” in 1646 was the belief that Jesus Christ is “the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”  Typical of other American universities is Duke in Durham, North Carolina.  Founded in 1924, there is a plaque in the center of the campus which states: “The aims of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ, the son of God.”  It’s not surprising.  Scripture exhorts Christians: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  Dawkins’ ad hominems even extend to an astonishing assault upon the character of God as (among other things): “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak” (p. 51).  From a logical perspective, even if Dawkins’ outrageous comments were somehow true, it still wouldn’t address the issue of God’s existence.

    3. Ad ignorantium (appeal to ignorance): This fallacy assumes that because something is unknown or seems unlikely, that fact can be used as evidence against its existence.  One form of this fallacy is called the argument from personal incredulity.  It looks like this: “If I can’t (or refuse) to believe this, then it can’t be true.”  Dawkins commits this fallacy throughout the book.  In the opening chapter he asserts his “commitment to naturalism.”  This means that he “believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe” (p. 35).  In other words, he announces an unwillingness to believe evidence which might not support his view.  This is not logical argument or scientific evidence.  It’s a philosophical presupposition and statement of personal bias.

    4. Ad populum (popularity appeal):  The popularity of a belief isn’t relevant in science or logic.  Truth isn’t democratic.  It doesn’t depend on a majority vote.  Nevertheless, Dawkins implies that atheistic evolution must be true because of what he calls “the overwhelming preponderance of atheists” among Nobel Prize winners, and in the membership of prestigious groups like the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and Mensa (a group of people with high IQs) (p.126-130).  Even if Dawkins was right about intellectuals favoring atheism, it wouldn’t prove its truth.  One of Dawkins’ heroes, Bertrand Russell, confessed his own disillusionment with intellectuals: “I had supposed that intellectuals loved truth, but I found here again that not 10 per cent of them prefer truth to popularity” (Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: London, 1962; vol. 2, p.17; cited in Paul Johnson, Intellectuals: Harper, 1988, p. 202).  However, Dawkins’ statistics are questionable.  In 2003 the Pulitzer-prize winning sociologist, Rodney Stark, presented evidence that “levels of religiousness [among science professors] are relatively high” (p. 194).  After reviewing the current survey data, Stark concluded: ”But perhaps the most striking finding is that… faculty in the ‘hard’ sciences turn out to be far more likely to be religious than are their counterparts in the ‘softer’ social sciences: they attend church more regularly, are more likely to describe themselves as ‘deeply’ or ‘moderately’ religious [55-60 %] and to say they are ‘religiously conservative’” [34-40%], and are far more likely to claim religious affiliation” (For the Glory of God, Princeton U. Press: 2003, p. 195).  Dawkins doesn’t seem to have looked very far.  He omits many obvious names of eminent scientists who have been open about their religious convictions, including Henry Schaeffer III.  Dr. Schaeffer (Ph.D. Stanford) is one of the most distinguished chemists in the world (U.C. Berkeley, 1969-1987), a Fellow of the Royal Society (London, 2005), a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize, and an out-spoken Christian (Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence, The Apollos Trust, 2003).  He is one of over five hundred doctoral-level scientists who have signed “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” which states: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life” (http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/100ScientistsAd.pdf).

    5. Ad annis (chronological snobbery):  This fallacy assumes that the age of a belief determines its truth or falsity.  It can be argued in one of two ways: either that the antiquity of a belief (Appeal to Tradition) verifies its truth (since people have believed it for such a long time); or that the modernity of a belief (Appeal to Novelty) verifies its truth (since people today are so much more enlightened).  Dawkins employs the second version, the “appeal to novelty,” repeatedly.  For example, he dismisses the fact that Newton and most of the founders of science were “religious” as irrelevant because of the age in which they lived.  “There was,” he implies, “[more] social and judicial pressure … to profess religion” back then (p. 124).  Similarly, Dawkins asserts: “Great scientists who profess religion become harder to find through the twentieth century… they [now] stand out for their rarity” (p. 125).   In a more shameful example, Dawkins dismisses the religious conversion of Anthony Flew (a renowned  philosopher and famous atheist until 2004) as something which happened “in his old age” (Footnote, p. 106).  See: Anthony Flew’s There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York: HarperOne, 2007). 

   6. Ipse dixit (false authority):  This fallacy consists in claiming authority without justification or evidence.  For example, Dawkins consistently presents the views of like-minded atheists as serious, credible authorities, and belittles those of Christians as trivial, with no other reason than their religious affiliation (or lack of it).  For example, he subtly disparages Francis Collins, the former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute simply because he is a Christian.  He understates his role and accomplishment in leading the successful multidisciplinary effort to map and sequence all human DNA and contrasts him with the “brilliant (and non-religious) ‘buccaneer’ of science, Craig Venter” (p. 125).  In the same fashion Dawkins routinely hurls assertions of momentous import, without serious evidence or argument, as when he asserts that: “blasphemy, as the witty bumper sticker puts it, is a victimless crime” (p. 16; Preface to the Paperback Ed., 2008).  “Witty bumper stickers” do not constitute a serious argument.

  7. Straw man (misrepresentation):  This fallacy misrepresents an opponent’s actual position through exaggeration or distortion.  A good precaution is to ask an opponent whether or not you have stated his viewpoint clearly and accurately.  Very few if any Christians will recognize themselves in Dawkins’ caricatures.   He repeatedly accuses religion of demanding credulity (mindless belief) and of discouraging science (rational inquiry).  For example, according to Dawkins, the great majority of Christians teach their children that: “unquestioning faith is a virtue” (p. 323) and that “truth comes from scripture rather than from evidence” (p. 379). Thus, he concludes: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature” (p. 346).   Thus, he concludes: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature” (p. 346).  Dawkins blandly assumes that all religions are basically the same in this regard.  While his characterization may apply to some cults and false religions, it is categorically false when applied to historic Christianity.   (For a more complete discussion see: False Dilemma)

B.  Fallacies of Ambiguity (Confusion)

     1. Composition (misapplication):  This fallacy assumes that what is true of the parts of something must also be true of the whole.  Dawkins commits this fallacy by treating evolution as a monolithic process, and refusing to distinguish between micro- and macro-evolution.  No one denies micro-evolution.  The evidence for adaptation and change within species is overwhelming.  However, there is no such evidence for change between species (transmutation), nor for the appearance of life from non-life by natural processes (abiogenesis).  

     2. Equivocation (obscurantism):  To equivocate is to mislead someone by confusing them.  When a debater equivocates the proper response is to call out: “Distinguo!” (“I distinguish!”).  Dawkins is guilty of equivocation on a grand scale.  He refuses to distinguish between religions as radically different as Christianity and Islam.  He insists on treating all religions as equally irrational, superstitious and unscientific.  This broad generalization is grossly unfair and misleading.  An equally unjustified tactic would be to treat alchemy and astrology as the equivalents of chemistry and astronomy.  The motivation and freedom for scientific inquiry did not happen by accident.  It came from a Biblical worldview towards which the Koran is suspicious and unfavorable.  As Islamic scholar Salman Rushdie has pointed out: “Islam has failed to create a free society anywhere on earth” (Columbia U.; Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991).  Freedom and encouragement for scientific study is unique to a Biblical worldview  (See: Straw Man).

C. Fallacies of Presumption (Faulty Form)

    1. False Dilemma (Either/Or):  Dawkins presents a false option between two extremes.  On the one hand he portrays science as the heroic, rational pursuit of facts.  On the other hand he portrays religion as the hypocritical, irrational pursuit of faith.  Some of his criticisms may apply to certain cults and false religions, but not to historic Christianity.  Faith and facts are not opposites.  There’s no necessary contradiction between the two.  In fact, the Pulitzer-prize winning historian, Rodney Stark, has argued: ”not only that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science, but that Christian theology was essential for the rise of science" (For the Glory of God, Princeton & Oxford, 2003: p. 123).  Dawkins argument is clearly distorted and false.  For almost a millennium fides quaerens intellectum (“faith in search of understanding”) has been a Christian motto expressing the Christian motivation to seek the truth.  It was Anselm’s dictum, echoing Augustine, about the positive relationship between faith and reason.  All Biblically literate Christians know that they have been exhorted to use their minds to the best of their ability (Phil. 4:8); to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16); and to “always be prepared to make a defense to any one calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  The oldest universities in the world, including Oxford, were founded by Christians who shared that conviction.   Granted that Dawkins’ criticism may apply to some individuals or groups in the history of Christianity, but they have been the exception, not the rule. 

Eminent historians and philosophers of science have acknowledged the unique formative role of Christianity in the origin of modern science.  French-born American historian, teacher and cultural critic (Columbia U.: 1927-67) Jacques Barzun wrote that the ‘so-called warfare between science and religion [could] be seen as the warfare between two philosophies and perhaps two faiths, [a] dispute between the believers in consciousness and the believers in mechanical action; the believers in purpose and the believers in pure chance’” (Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage; U. Chicago Press, 1941).  Dinesh D’Souza points out in his recent study, What’s So Great About Christianity, modern science relies upon an “unsupported belief” both in the rationality of the universe and of our own minds.  In a lecture at Harvard University in 1925 the eminent British philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, asserted that “faith in the possibility of science… is an unconscious derivative of medieval theology” (Science and the Modern World: Free Press, p. 53). 

Herbert Schneidau, in his widely acclaimed study of mythical cultures, Sacred Discontent: The Bible and Western Tradition (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1977), concluded that the Biblical worldview led to the rise of science and technology.  By “desacralizing” nature, the Bible sanctioned critical, objective investigation of the world and a linear concept of time.  Loren Eiseley, the late distinguished professor ofAnthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania went so far as to suggest that science was an “invention” of Christianity: “it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself” (Darwin’s Century: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1961; cited in Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 1994; pp. 17-18).  John Lennox, a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Oxford, has pointed out to Dawkins (in formal debates) that the Natural History Museum (where they have debated) was originally “dedicated to God and the investigation of divine design” http://www.dawkinslennoxdebate.com/ 

    2. Begging the Question (circular reasoning):  Dawkins constantly assumes that which he purports to prove, namely, that a godless process of evolution is the cause of everything, including “apparent design.”  For example, he asserts that: “Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it” (p. 52).   Although Dawkins claims that he will “show” the reader evidence for this belief, he fails to deliver.  When the issue comes up again later, he simply repeats the assertion: “Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process” (p. 98).  Dawkins announces his “commitment to naturalism” in Chapter 1.  He explains that: “An atheist in this sense of philosophical naturalist is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe” (p. 35; italics added).  He seems unaware that he is making the same kind of unsupported faith commitment which he otherwise finds so inimical.  In other words, Dawkins’ foundation is not facts or evidence, but a reductionistic faith in materialism.  Naturalism assumes that nothing exists besides matter and energy.  The end result of naturalism is self-contradiction.  If our thoughts are nothing more than a random, bio-chemical process (p. 34), then we have no basis to believe that our thoughts are true.  They are equivalent to the secretions of our kidneys and other physical organs.  In Darwin’s (and Dawkins’) world, our thoughts need not be “true,” only “useful” (p. 413).  But there’s no way to know which ideas are most useful at any given time.  Only later will it be revealed which ideas “survive.”   People are reduced to random metabolic units which receive and emit random sensory input.  Although others might find this view dismal and dehumanizing, Dawkins claims to find it “liberating” and “emancipating” (p. 419-420). 

When Dawkins is so transparent about his dislike for God, he opens himself to the charge of ‘theophobia,’ that is, a fear of (or revulsion against) God.  C. S. Lewis identified this phenomenon and applied it to Sigmund Freud.  As a result, Dr. Armand Nicholi, a professor at Harvard University has taught a course comparing the ideas of Freud and Lewis.  In 2002 he published his findings in a book entitled: The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and the Meaning of Life (New York: The Free Press).  Lewis agreed with Freud on one basic thing, that human beings have a tendency to "suppress" unpleasant truths."  However, Lewis disagreed with Freud regarding which truths we find most unpleasant, and which truths we try hardest to suppress.  Like Dawkins, Freud asserted that we are most afraid of "being alone" (i.e. without God) and of "being unloved" (i.e. without God's love).  Lewis disagreed.  Lewis said that when he became a Christian he reaIized that for many years his greatest fear had been "not being alone" (i.e. not being free to do whatever he wanted) and afraid of "being judged" (i.e. accountable to God).  Similarly, whereas Freud argued that we "project" our "wishes" for moral order and life after death by "creating" (an imaginary) heaven, Lewis argued that we "project" our "wishes" for personal freedom and supremacy by "creating" (an imaginary) kingdom of our own.  (See Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.: The Question of God: The Free Press, 2002).  

    3. Post hoc ergo propter hoc (false cause):  This fallacy makes the unjustified assumption that when one thing precedes another, the first must cause the second.  Dawkins adds a peculiar twist to this fallacy by arguing that the ‘simple’ must always precede the ‘complex.’  He insists that in the history of the universe simple processes must always have preceded (and produced) more complex systems.  On the one hand, as mentioned earlier, Dawkins asserts the creative power of (simple) naturalistic evolution: “Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process“ (p. 98).  On the other hand, Dawkins denies the admissibility of (complex) divine creative agency: “Any entity capable of intelligently designing something as improbable as a … universe would have to be even more improbable than [a universe]” (p. 146). 

The renowned philosopher, Anthony Flew, has called Dawkins’ argument “bizarre.”  Dawkins offers no evidence in support of these assertions other than his admitted preference for any viewpoint which precludes divine activity.  The logic of Dawkins’ argument (‘simple-always-precedes-complex’) is disproved by all human artistry and engineering as well as all forms of biological reproduction.  The artist always precedes the work of art; the chicken always comes before the egg.  If Dawkins’ logic was valid, then any human agency capable of designing something as improbable as a watch, a cathedral, or a spaceship would have to be considered “improbable.”  There’s obviously something wrong with that.  It is an accepted practice in logic to “infer to the most sufficient explanation.”  In the debate about human origins, a strong argument can be made that only divine agency can account for human life and reason.  By refusing to consider the possibility of divine creativity and causation, Dawkins ends up by threatening human creativity and causation as well.